The Samaria Gorge is in west Crete, in the White Mountains. It is one of the main sights of Crete, it is the longest gorge in Europe, with a length of 18 kilometres. The gorge starts at Xyloskalo (1227 m. above sea level) on the Omalos Plateau and runs down to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli on the south coast of Crete.
Samaria Gorge, Flora and Fauna
The Samaria National Park is exceptionally rich in plant and animal life. You will find unique species protected under international law: 450 plant species to be exact! Not a single flower may be cut or removed from Samaria, it is the only way to protect the delicate ecosystem of Samaria.
In Samaria you can admire the forests of huge pine and cypress trees, a picture from Crete’s past, when the island was covered by forests full of notorious timber, ideal for building ships.
Inside the gorge you may meet its famous inhabitants, the wild goats of Crete, “agrimia” or else “kri-kri”.
The Samaria village
Samaria is an old village whose inhabitants were relocated in 1962 when the gorge was declared a national park. The old houses serve as houses for the guards: it is a good opportunity to see the traditional architecture. A little further down is the 14th-century church of Osia Maria (Holy Mary), from which the name “Samaria” is derived.
Τhe Samaria footpath is very well signposted and is thought to be the most-walked footpath in the whole of Greece. A good pair of hiking shoes is a must, as well as sun block and a hat. There are drinking water springs and toilets at various points. It is impossible to get lost.
The most tiring part of the walk is the last 3 km before the exit from the National Park. Here there is often another ticket control to make sure no-one is left in the gorge overnight.
The landscape at the exit from the gorge is dry and arid with no shade. If you have started your walk in the early morning, you will reach this point in the early afternoon. Another hour’s walk away is Agia Roumeli with its amazing beach.
At Agia Roumeli you can take the ferry either to Loutro and Hora Sfakion, or to Sougia and Paliochora. You can stay in Agia Roumeli at one of the apartments there. In the morning, take the path up to the fortress high above Agia Roumeli and enjoy the spectacular view.
A brief visit to the Samaria Gorge
The walk through the Samaria Gorge takes 4-8 hours depending on your pace. However, there is also a much shorter route from Agia Roumeli up to the “Iron Gates” (Sideroportes), the narrowest point of the gorge. The gorge at that point is so narrow that you can almost touch both sides (they rise up sheer 350 metres above your head).
Samaria visiting season
The ticket to enter the gorge is cheap and the gorge is open from mid-April to the end of October, it depends on the weather. A downpour may force the people in charge to forbid entry to the gorge, to avoid accidents due to rock falls or flooding of the stream.
When there is a strong wind blowing, the little boats to and from Agia Roumeli may not be allowed to sail, so you’ll have to wait until conditions improve.